Roasted butternut and mushrooms with hendricks, herbs and gjetost cheese (vegetarian Norwegian reindeer stew)

Roasted butternut with hendricks and gjetost cheese

Roasted butternut with hendricks and gjetost cheese

I feel like I’ve been going on (and on) lately in an increasingly verbose fashion, and I have to get to work soon, so I’m going to let some others speak today. In the past we’ve presented a collection of quotes, in the style of Seymour and Buddy Glass, and today those quotes will all be about vegetarianism. I try not to talk about vegetarianism too much, because it invariably seems preachy and proselytizing, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about lately, and this is a vegetarian food blog! It all started when I got to thinking about George Bernard Shaw, whom I admire very much. I was thinking that however hard it occasionally is to be a vegetarian today, it must have been much harder when he lived. And I started to find a lot of quotes from people I admire, so that it seemed, as Gandhi said, that “It is very significant that some of the most thoughtful and cultured men are partisans of a pure vegetable diet.” Last week I spoke about my appreciation of generosity in novels and films, of an author’s affection for the characters they’ve created, and I started to see a connection between writers and essayists that I love because they’re kind to their characters (like Shaw or Tolstoy), and a greater philosophy of compassion for all creatures. So here are some of the wise things that have been said. I find the prophetic urgency of them very fascinating, particularly compared to the world we find ourselves in today. I love to think about people thinking about these things – about our place in the world, or relation to nature, the value of kindness – not in a judgmental way, but as a philosophical exercise in understanding the great mysteries.

    Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet. ~Albert Einstein

    “Thou shalt not kill” does not apply to murder of one’s own kind only, but to all living beings; and this Commandment was inscribed in the human breast long before it was proclaimed from Sinai. ~Leo Tolstoy

    While we ourselves are the living graves of murdered beasts, how can we expect any ideal conditions on this earth? ~George Bernard Shaw

    I did not become a vegetarian for my health, I did it for the health of the chickens. ~Isaac Bashevis Singer

    Animals are my friends… and I don’t eat my friends. ~George Bernard Shaw

    One farmer says to me, “You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make the bones with;” and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying himself with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plow along in spite of every obstacle. ~Henry David Thoreau

    The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.
    Leonardo Da Vinci

    The obligations of law and equity reach only to mankind; but kindness and beneficence should be extended to the creatures of every species and these will flow from the breast of a true man, as streams that issue from the living fountain.
    Plutarch

And that’s all for now! On to this meal! Surely one of the strangest but tastiest I’ve made. I bought some gjetost cheese, as I’ve mentioned. I had read in the Guardian that this cheese could be used to thicken a Norwegian reindeer stew called Finnbiff. So I looked up a few recipes, and I decided to try it! I used thinly-sliced roasted butternut squash as a replacement for the reindeer meat. I roasted them mushrooms, too. Every recipe I saw called for Juniper berries. I didn’t have juniper berries, but I did have Hendrick’s gin, which is made with juniper berries! I added a big slosh of that, as well as a little bit of rosemary, because juniper berries are said to be a little piney. This whole meal was the most umami-ish thing I’ve ever eaten! It had a depth and sweetness that was lovely. Finnbiff is eaten with mashed potatoes and cranberries (well, lingonberries, originally, I think), so we had that, too. The mashed potatoes were perfect with the squash and mushrooms, as a nicely-textured, mild-flavored foil for their strong flavor.

Here’s Desmond Dekker with Wise Man.


1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, and cut into pieces about 1 inch X 2 inches X 1/8th inch (about 2 cups)
1 t chopped rosemary
10 oz mushrooms, cut into thin slices
2 or 3 T olive oil
3 T butter
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T flour
1 t dried thyme
1 t rosemary, chopped
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup hendricks gin (or any kind you have on hand)
1 – 2 cups water
3 slices brunost or gjetost cheese
salt and plenty of freshly ground peppers

Preheat the oven to 425.

Arrange the butternut squash and the mushrooms in single layers on separate baking sheets. Sprinkle the squash with rosemary. Drizzle enough olive oil over each to coat each piece lightly. (Use your hands to mix it all together.)

Roast for 20 – 30 minutes, until the vegetables are browned on the edges and crispy. The squash went faster than the mushrooms, for me. The musrhooms will get quite juicy first, and then dry out and get crispy. Set the vegetables aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. When it’s bubbly, add the shallots, garlic, thyme and rosemary. Stir and cook until everything starts to brown a bit – a minute or two. Whisk in the flour, stir and cook for another minute or two, until that starts to brown as well. Whisk in the milk and gin. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cook for 20 – 25 minutes over low heat. As the pan dries out, add water, about 1/2 cup at a time. You want it fairly thin, but not soupy.

When you’re ready to serve, drop the roasted vegetables into the sauce, and stir to coat. Add the cheese, and stir till it’s all melted. Add a bit more water, if necessary, to loosen things up, but don’t add too much, because you don’t want the vegetables to get mushy. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with mashed potatoes and cranberries.

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6 thoughts on “Roasted butternut and mushrooms with hendricks, herbs and gjetost cheese (vegetarian Norwegian reindeer stew)

  1. I have juniper berries in stock. I can bring some down, if you want to play with them. Bought them at Whole Earth Center in Princeton. Love the idea of using Gin, though.

    Last year I celebrated Norway Day up the Hudson River with my friend and her husband, both of Norweigian heritage. I brought them aquavit and gjetost. We sang Norwegian songs and, curiously, songs from “Oklahoma”. This year, on Norway Day (May 17), I will try your “Reindeerless Stew”. Thanks for the inspiration.

    And, thanks for the quotes.

    It must have been difficult to be on a vegetarian diet long ago especially in the northern places. My friend’s mom talked to me of the challenges finding ingredients in St. Louis in the 1960s when the family just arrived from India. Boy, was she creative!

    In the mid 1970s I received a copy of Laurel’s Kitchen, the first vegetarian book I had ever seen. I made lentil soup for everyone and they liked it. My parents and their friends did not know what a lentil was! Times have changed!

    • Thanks, Diane! I’d love to play with Juniper berries!

      I didn’t even know there was a Norway day, but your way to celebrate with your friends sounds perfect. I wonder if a lot of Norwegians settled in Oklahoma?

      And you’re right about how times have changed. It’s funny to read old vegetarian cookbooks, now, and to remember trips to health food stores in the seventies and eighties. It took some persistence to make anything creative!

      • I think the Norwegians settled further north and North Midwest. My friend’s hometown is St. Paul, Minnesota. Her husband is the son of a fisherman from Rhode Island.

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